Reading old newspaper accounts is an interesting way to pass the time. I have accumulated many stories which I have photocopied from the original papers, or via clippings which have been mailed to me from family and friends. One of the most faithful people to keep me in the loop is my cousin, Betty Mesler. A packet of articles and clippings, along with her personal note or letter, arrives in my mailbox on a regular basis.
Occasionally, there is an “old time” rendering of the news of the day. These articles are very interesting to read for their detail (or lack thereof), flowery phrases and uncommon words, or simply the mental images they create in my head. Sometime ago, Betty forwarded to me one such article, published in 2004. It originally appeared in either the Urbana or Marysville (probably the latter) newspaper; there is no notation in the margins as to which paper printed the story. I share it here in its entirety.
One Hundred Years Ago: May 28, 1904
A band of gypsies, with five or six wagons, were in the city Monday afternoon, telling fortunes and picking up a few old pennies. They encamped for the night on the North Lewisburg road. One of the women of the outfit worked a little flim-flam game on Liveryman Ed Berger which came near costing him a fifty dollar bill.
On the pretext of telling his fortune, the woman asked for a piece of paper money claiming that it would aid her in reading his fortune. Mr. Berger, without thinking of the consequences, took a roll of bills from his pocket and the first one off was a fifty dollar note. The woman held this in here hands while telling the fortune, and also requested his handkerchief in which she tied several knots, probably for the purpose of getting his mind off the money. On leaving she told him not to untie the knots until an appointed hour in the evening. Like most persons who submit to fortune tellers, Mr. Berger was rather amused by his experience, but in counting his money a few minutes after the fortune teller departed he was surprised to find the fifty dollar bill missing.
He sought the assistance of Marshal Murphy and they overhauled the woman on West Fourth Street, as she was about to rejoin the other gypsies. The money was demanded but instead of being confused, the woman turned upon Mr. Berger with a declaration that the bill was in his pocket. With a deftness that surprised him, she whisked the handkerchief out of his pocket and went through the operation of untying the knots, at the conclusion of which she exposed the bill to view.
Neither Mr. Berger nor Marshal Murphy was able to say whether the money had been in the handkerchief or whether the woman outwitted them by merely pretending to extract it from the knot. The owner was satisfied to get the bill in his hands and did not waste any time with apologies or asking foolish questions.